Cody: We are still just one defeat away from elimination
Kilkenny manager won't look beyond Waterford clash
WHILE many in the hurling world regarded Kilkenny's win over Tipperary last Saturday as possibly the most important development of a volatile season to date, Brian Cody saw it as no more than one step forward on a windswept high wire which has no safety net.
While beating Tipperary in a highly charged occasion in Nowlan Park was hugely significant for Kilkenny and a major promotional boost for the GAA, the prize for winning was no greater than in Ennis where Clare beat Laois in a much lower-profile qualifier clash.
"Winning last Saturday kept us in the championship, no more or no less. We're still a win away from even qualifying for the quarter-finals. The consequences of losing to Waterford this Saturday would be the exact same as losing to Tipperary – we'd be out of the championship. We're very much aware of that," said Cody.
Concentrating on the next challenge – irrespective of the perceived strength or otherwise of the opposition – to the exclusion of everything else has always been central to the Cody philosophy, and while Kilkenny supporters may be convinced that the transmitter has returned to normal service after the win over Tipperary, the manager is altogether more wary of what lies ahead.
"We have played four games in the championship and we weren't impressive up to last Saturday. It was a great game to win and a great occasion for the town and for hurling, but it's in the past now. We know that if we drop a fraction on how we played against Tipperary, Waterford will exploit it. They are a very good side now and have been for a number of years. The young talent they are bringing through is doing very well, while they also have a very solid core of experienced players," he said.
The intense build-up to the Tipperary game, followed by the emotion of winning, has left the Kilkenny players in the potentially treacherous territory of facing a challenge that would be perceived as less dangerous.
What's more, it's coming just a week later.
However, Cody doesn't accept it adds to the Kilkenny load.
"Once a team is in a situation where they are out of the championship if they lose, it's the same for everybody. I don't accept at all that we have more to lose than Waterford on Saturday," said Cody.
"We won the All-Ireland last year and naturally we want to win it again but Waterford want it just as much. So does every other team that's still involved."
Offaly provide a form line through Kilkenny and Waterford, losing to the former by five points in the Leinster quarter-final and the latter by four points in the qualifiers.
Unusually, neither Kilkenny nor Waterford scored a goal against Offaly, a scenario which would normally be expected to return some dividend for the midlanders.
Waterford followed up on the win over Offaly with a smooth workout against Westmeath, setting them up for the challenge which will define their season.
Still looking for their first championship win over Kilkenny since 1959, Waterford came up six points short in their last clash (the 2011 All-Ireland semi-final) and lost by five points when the counties clashed in the league in March.
Kilkenny are approaching Saturday's game in exactly the same way as they went about the Tipperary challenge, only this time they won't have the Nowlan Park roar as an extra support.
While Kilkenny enjoyed the afterglow of their win over Tipperary last Sunday, they watched Dublin dethrone Galway as Leinster champions with what Cody described as "an excellent performance".
And Galway? "They're still in the championship, aren't they? Everyone who's still there will fancy their chances," he added.